The Charlotte Rainbow Action Network for Equality (CRANE) is back.
Despite radical attempts to ignore our existence, now is the time for LGBTQI people to stand up.
On Thursday, May 17 2012 — a little over one week after our community’s historic loss on May 8 — CRANE stepped up to provide a visible presence of our community’s sadness, anger and frustration. We turned our feelings of loss into a time to act. As night turned to day, thousands of people driving into Uptown Charlotte on Independence Blvd. saw our message for equality.
We are re-energizing, re-mobilizing and re-engaging to bring voice in solidarity and action in pride to create full civil and social equality for Charlotte’s and North Carolina’s LGBTQI community.
Charlotte has long lacked a strong, well-organized and well-connected grassroots activism community that engages in direct action and protest. In the past, CRANE has helped to fill that void, but we’ve left that gap unbridged for far too long.
If May 8 and the passage of Amendment One has taught us anything, it’s that we can never keep silent, we can never sit down and we can never shut up. Amendment One is not the end of this fight. LGBTQI people can be fired, kicked out of their homes, denied public services and discriminated against in public accommodations.
Our collective muscle — the feet on the streets, the voices in the town square, the lobbying in city hall — can make a difference. As Charlotte’s local political advocacy group, MeckPAC, recently said, “We’ve lost one battle, but we’re not losing any more.”
Together with the work of other community organizations, CRANE will step up and bring loud and consistent LGBTQI voices for equality back to Charlotte’s streets and neighborhoods.
As we move forward, we welcome your ideas, suggestions and input. We want you to be involved in our planning and decision making. We want to see and feel your presence.
Stay tuned for more updates by subscribing to our announcements-only Google Group via the subscription box to the right or click here to join the Google Group. If you’re interested in becoming a part of our planning team, contact us and we’ll fill you in on the details of our future planning meetings.
On April 28, six activists and constituents made their way to the Capitol Hill offices of Sens. Richard Burr and Kay Hagan and Reps. Larry Kissell and Mike McIntyre.
Matt Comer, Randy Floyd and Lacey Williams of CRANE were joined by fellow organizers Ryan Burris, James Elks and Melissa Siegel.
Since March, CRANE and activists across the state have worked to build awareness on the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) through Charlotte’s March on Myrick, Raleigh’s Stand with Honor and Wilmington’s March on McIntyre campaigns. The goal: Collect 13,500 plastic toy soldiers — each representing a gay or lesbian patriot discharged under DADT — and deliver them as a stark, visual reminder of the cost of DADT to our elected officials.
At a bright, and early start of 8 a.m., we made our way from their hotel to downtown Washington, D.C. and the Capitol Building. There, we set up our display of just one set of 13,500 soldiers we’ve collected for Burr, Hagan, Kissell, McIntyre and Myrick. We spoke with passers-by about DADT, many who already supported repeal and others who did not. In one exchange, Matt Comer spoke with a group of Christian high school students whose adult chaperone believed “homosexuals shouldn’t serve at all.” Asking how it is right, just or fair to force a person to live in fear and lies, the Christian chaperone responded: “There is no fear in the Lord.” Convincing the adult chaperone of the value of a DADT repeal was fruitless but standing on Capitol Hill grounds speaking to these Christian young folks was well worth it: If they haven’t engaged LGBT issues with LGBT people, they have now. And, if there were one or two closeted LGBT youth there, our group was there to say: “You are not alone.”
As we met with the offices of our elected officials, we were able to deliver a portion — one-tenth of the 13,500 to be exact — to our two senators and two representatives. (Half of Myrick’s 13,500 were delivered on April 1.) Each of the offices we visited responded with either surprise or interest to our 1,350 soldiers. It made an impact — a constituent message unlike the many postcards, emails and letters they receive on a daily basis and one they won’t forget anytime soon… especially when the rest of their soldiers can be delivered at a later date.
Here’s the recap from each office visit…
Raleigh’s Melissa Siegel and Wilmington’s James Elks met with Republican Sen. Richard Burr’s Defense Legislative Fellow Vaughan Byrum and Military Legislative Fellow Kevin Kane. Although the meeting went reasonably well, Siegel reported the two staffers seemed quite confrontational, eager to defend DADT and uncomfortable with the thought of gay people serving openly and honestly. The staffers told Siegel and Elks that Burr would wait until after the Department of Defense’s study on DADT to make his decision on repeal.
Representing the Seventh District of North Carolina, Mike McIntyre is a conservative Democrat who has often taken on positions harmful to the LGBT community. Wilmington residents Ryan Burris and James Elks, along with Charlotte resident Matt Comer, met with Rep. Mike McIntyre, who said he would wait until after the Department of Defense study on DADT before making his decision. Elks shared his personal story regarding his attempts to join the military. McIntyre seemed genuinely interested. Regardless, McIntyre stands by the assertion he made when last meeting with Burris and Elks in Wilmington this February: If a DADT repeal came up for vote today, McIntyre would vote against it.
Constituents Ryan Burris, Matt Comer, Randy Floyd and Melissa Siegel met with Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan’s Legislative Assistant Julie Holzhueter. Hagan, who announced April 14 she firmly supports a repeal of DADT, has yet to sign on as a co-sponsor of the Senate’s Military Readiness Enhancement Act as introduced by Sen. Joe Leiberman on March 3. Constituents presented Holzheuter with the 1,350 soldiers and urged the staffer to relay our message to the senator: Please take leadership on this issue and sign on as a co-sponsor of the bill to repeal DADT.
Kissell constituents Randy Floyd and Lacey Williams — along with Matt Comer, who works in Kissell’s district — met with Legislative Assistant John Tripp. Floyd has previously met with Tripp and Rep. Kissell, a Democrat who represents the sprawling Eighth District including portions of Charlotte, Fayetteville and Ft. Bragg. In his previous meetings, Floyd had learned the congressman fully supported ending discrimination in the workplace (although he had yet to publicly support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act). Constituents urged Tripp to remind the congressman of his principles and stand by them on the issue of DADT. Tripp responded positively to our constituent message of 1,350 soldiers. Later in the day, constituents received good news regarding Kissell, although not on the issue of DADT. The congressman will finally support ENDA, although it isn’t clear whether he will be a co-sponsor.
Press coverage from the day
Congress.org: Activists push on Don’t Ask issue
The Georgia Voice: DADT pressure continues
Photos from the day
CRANE and the Human Rights Campaign staged a rally on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” on Feb. 26, 2010. CRANE also kicked off its March on Myrick campaign.
CRANE and the Human Rights Campaign will stage a rally and awareness event on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and kick-off CRANE’s March on Myrick campaign.
PRESS CONFERENCE & RALLY DETAILS:
WHAT: Press conference, rally on repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”; “March on Myrick” kick-off
WHEN: Friday, February 26, 2010, 4:30 p.m. (Rally immediately following)
WHERE: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, 3rd & Davidson Sts., Charlotte, NC 28202
WHO: Press conference to feature remarks from:
– Eric Alva, a former Marine Staff Sgt. veteran who was the first U.S. soldier wounded in the Iraq war and is now an HRC spokesperson on DADT
– Michael Noftzger, a former Army Specialist veteran who served under DADT
– Lacey Williams, a local CRANE organizer and grassroots activist
– Randy Floyd, a local CRANE organizer and the political co-chair for HRC Carolinas Steering Committee
On Friday, Feb. 26, CRANE and the Human Rights Campaign will stage a rally and awareness event on the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the anti-gay law which prevents openly lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans from serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Openly gay veteran Eric Alva, a former U.S. Marine staff sergeant, will be with us and other gay vets and community members for our press conference at 4:30 p.m.
Alva, 37, a native of San Antonio, was sworn into the U.S. Marine Corps when he was 19 years old after attending community college. He graduated from Southwest High School in 1989.
Alva served in the Marine Corps for 13 years, and was a member of the 3rd Battalion of the 7th Marines. At the age of 22, he was deployed to Somalia for Operation Restore Hope. Over the years he was stationed from California to Japan. He was deployed to the Middle East in January of 2003.
On March, 21, 2003, the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom; Marine Staff Sgt. Alva was traveling in Iraq in a convoy to Basra with his battalion – where he was in charge of 11 Marines – when he stepped on a landmine, breaking his right arm and damaging his leg so badly that it needed to be amputated. Alva was awarded a Purple Heart and received a medical discharge from the military.
Alva, the first American wounded in the war in Iraq, has been on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and various TV news shows and has appeared in People magazine and major newspapers.
Alva, is an avid scuba diver and likes to ski as well. Alva graduated from college in May of 2008, with a Bachelor of Social Work degree. Currently, he is studying for a master’s degree in social work in San Antonio, where he lives with his partner, Darrell, to continue, he says, to work for social justice.
On Friday, Feb. 26, Alva will join CRANE in raising local awareness on this national issue. Learn more about our event, when CRANE will kick-off our “March on Myrick” campaign.
We were able to snag a couple photos of our special, heart-shaped Valentine’s Day card to Bill James before presenting it to him at the Mecklenburg County Commission meeting on Feb. 16.
In the photo at right, CRANE organizer and card maker extraordinaire Laura Maschal holds the card open. The message reads, “Commissioner James, May you always feel loved no matter who you may love.” The front of the card read, “Gay is OK.”
This is a post to inform you that CRANE (the Charlotte Rainbow Action Network for Equality) is officially back in action. We have several events planned in the upcoming weeks and promise to provide a continuum of activities so you can get your protest on.
Too often in our community, bigotry goes unchecked as progressive people turn the other cheek and mistakenly believe that truth and right will prevail. History has shown us that the arc of history is long but it bends toward justice. History also shows us that change, while a process, does not come to those who wait it out waiting for cooler heads to prevail. Change is a battle. Malcolm X teaches us that power never takes a step back except in the face of more power. We the people are that power. We the people, banded together, under a banner of justice and equality, can achieve change.
Please stand with us as we demand equality this year. There are many opportunities to stand up against bigotry, discrimination and hate. We will stand up to Commissioner Bill James using the dais to preach homophobia and hate. We will stand up to discriminatory practices like Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and Proposition 8. We can use our base in Charlotte to tell our representatives that enough is enough. Anything less than full inclusion is not acceptable. That is our promise to you.
Let the games begin.